The (fake) sick man of Europe: Hotels bar British tourists as bogus holiday illness claims soar 400%

19 February 2017

British tourists are being barred by foreign hotels after a surge in bogus claims seeking compensation for falling ill during holidays.

Turkish hotel owners in popular resorts have dumped UK tour operators in favour of less litigious German holidaymakers. And Spanish resorts are even using electronic wristbands to monitor customers.

The growing scam involves tourists who have been on all-inclusive breaks making claims that they picked up food poisoning bugs in foreign hotels – sometimes years after their visits.

Thousands of false claims, worth up to £20,000 for a family of four, are costing the industry millions of pounds and operators warn they will force up the price of holidays.

Last year this newspaper revealed how holidaymakers were being approached at resorts by workers from rogue claims management companies posing as tourists who encourage them to make fake claims.

The problem has become so bad that many popular resorts in Turkey, including Antalya and Marmaris, have cancelled contracts with UK tour operators.

Nurcan Dag, who helps book British and European tour operators with Turkish hotels, said about 99 per cent of claims had no evidence to back them but hoteliers paid out as it would cost more to go to court.

She said: ‘It’s very disappointing because when they [the tourists] are at the resort they are very complimentary about what a good time they have had, but three years later we are getting claims from lawyers.

‘It is very difficult to prove after such a long time that they were not ill and it is expensive to fight the case so the hotels are just paying out.’

Nuray Ince, sales manager at the five-star Turunc Hotel in Marmaris, said: ‘We pride ourselves on outstanding service. That is why it is difficult for us to accept the huge number of complaints from Brits. We do not see this issue from other countries and have decided it is better to take German tourists.’

The Benidorm, Costa Blanca and Valencia Region Hotel Association said most all-inclusive hotels had now introduced electronic wristbands for holidaymakers that were swiped when they ordered food and drink.

General Secretary Nuria Montes said: ‘We have a much better chance of proving we’re dealing with a fraudulent claim if someone has drunk 27 beers and 14 gin and tonics and hasn’t been confined ill to their room.’

The claims often initially go to the tour operator that organised the holiday. These firms then try to offset their losses by claiming against the hotels.

One London-based tour operator that arranges holidays on the Continent has 18 outstanding claims worth £144,000. The managing director, who did not want to be named, said: ‘It’s very difficult and I’ve been forced to make redundancies.

‘For a £5,000 claim it would cost us £40,000 to fight in court – it’s ridiculous. All the complaints letters we receive are identical – as if the solicitor is just copying and pasting.’

One man contacted The Mail on Sunday after being cold-called by Manchester-based Holiday Illness Group, which encouraged him to lie about falling ill. The caller even suggested that lying on a sun lounger would constitute being ill in bed.

A female caller told the man to claim that he reported the illness to the hotel’s receptionist, in order to get a payout.

The man recorded the conversation, which has been heard by The Mail on Sunday.

The woman says: ‘We wouldn’t be able to go forward unless you said you told somebody about it. You don’t need to have proof of that because normally a receptionist don’t [sic] really write much down with things like that, it would go over their head.

‘But we would need to have to say that you told somebody about it.’

Holiday Illness Group could not be contacted for comment.

Abta chief executive Mark Tanzer said: ‘Data from our members has shown a dramatic rise in the number of gastric illness claims made since 2013, while sickness levels reported in resort have remained stable.

‘Gastric illness claims now represent nine in ten personal injury complaints received by Abta members – a figure that stood at around 60 per cent in 2013.’

A Ministry of Justice spokesman said last night: ‘We have tough sanctions for firms that break the rules.’

Fonte: DailyMail, 19-02-17

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